Before the start of the 2012 NFL season most of us thought the loss of Sean Payton would be significant to the New Orleans Saints throughout the year, but none of us had a good measuring stick on just how much his presence would be missed.
Now, throughout the college and pro football world coaches are being paid much more based on his one-year league suspension.
If you needed further proof of just how much Payton was missed all you had to do was watch the Saints lose last Thursday night to the Atlanta Falcons, 23-13.
This was the sort of game Payton thrived in.
The Saints under Sean Payton had the best road record in the NFL from 2009-2012. They were 18-6 on the road and his teamsí seemed to always be focused, well rested, attentive to details and he was always willing to be a little risky with some of his play-calling.
But they were calculated risks.
Paytonís teams were ready for the tough challenge of road games - especially in short week situations, primetime games and games where Paytonís squad went against an opponent that he knew thoroughly.
Last Thursday, the Saints looked like a tired football team.
After a horrendous first quarter, the Saints defense really played well and there are some encouraging signs from players like defensive end Cameron Jordan, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. However, it was the offense and the play of Drew Brees that was not nearly up to the standards we have all seen in the past.
Brees had the worst day of his career throwing five interceptions, but it was also not helped along the way by the fact that there were numerous dropped passes and poor redzone execution.
Where Paytonís presence was really missed was right before halftime when the Saints were marching along for a score and the clock management looked more like what we have seen at times with Les Miles and the Tigersí offense than a team that has been the best two-minute offense in the NFL to close a half since 2006.
The Saints ended up with no points and the play-calling left a lot to be desired.
Mathematically, the Saints are still in the hunt for a possible wildcard slot, but realistically it would take a football miracle and plenty of help along the way to get this team into postseason play.
But what is certain is that Tom Benson must quickly piece together a contract that will pay Payton what he is looking for. His steady hand on the Saints wheel is missed and it has shown over the course of this season.
The measuring stick now for Saints fans are playoffs and advancing. The 5-7 mark they have today irks all because the Saints donít have the skipper of their boat on board this season.
Agents do their job and they do it well. Before the Cowboys played the Falcons and a day before the Saints played the Eagles, word leaked that the NFL had rejected the new contract given to Payton last summer.
That technically made Payton a free agent head coach.
Interestingly enough, both the Eagles and especially the Dallas Cowboys would love to get their hands on Payton to rebuild their franchises. Paytonís history with the Cowboys and his close friendship with Cowboysí owner Jerry Jones is well documented and his children and ex-wife live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Great timing by an agent to leak that to just the right source right?
Just last week reports were that Arkansas had thrown their version of a contract bomb pass to LSU head coach Les Miles for him to take over the Razorbacks football team.
The money behind the Razorbacks is none other than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a former Arkansas football player.
In less than 24 hours, Miles gets a new contract, a raise and extra money to pay assistant coaches.
While Miles admitted to talking to Arkansas, he denied an offer was on the table or that he had spoken to Jones himself.
He didnít have to admit it. It was his agent who made the deal and it got him a sweeter one in Baton Rouge.
And like Miles, Payton will become richer and the highest paid head coach in NFL history.
Like it or not the agents run the sports world, but on this point we all have seen just how much Sean Payton means to the Saints.
Pay him the money. If not, someone else will.